U.S. Senate negotiators have reached a final agreement on a bipartisan gun safety bill that could become the first gun control measure to pass Congress in nearly 30 years.
The 80-page bill, called the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, would expand background checks for prospective gun buyers ages 18 to 21. The new process would encourage states to open access to previously sealed juvenile records and could add several days to the waiting period before a buyer can purchase a gun.
The legislation stemmed from negotiations among 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats and is expected to have more than enough votes for the 60-vote threshold to clear a filibuster. The Senate is expected to pass the bill this week, and House leaders are expected to start considering the bill soon. President Joe Biden has urged Congress to pass the bill quickly, NPR reported.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have announced support for the bill and have said they will vote for it.
“Our colleagues have put together a commonsense package of popular steps that will help make these horrifying incidents less likely while fully upholding the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens,” McConnell said in a statement.
A bipartisan group of Senators – Democrats Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, and Republicans John Cornyn of Texas and Thom Tillis of North Carolina – spent several days pushing to complete the legislation in time for the Senate to vote this week before a 2-week July 4 recess.
“Our legislation will save lives and will not infringe on any law-abiding American’s Second Amendment rights,” the group announced in a statement on Tuesday. “We look forward to earning broad, bipartisan support and passing our commonsense legislation into law.”
States will control what juvenile records they’re willing to share, Cornyn said on the Senate floor on Tuesday afternoon, according to NPR. The legislation encourages states to upload records that “reflect on the suitability of the individual to purchase a firearm,” he said.
The legislation also includes $750 million for states to support “red flag” laws that would allow law enforcement or other entities to petition a court to remove guns from someone deemed to be a threat to themselves or others. The money would be provided as a crisis intervention grant, which can apply to red flag laws and states that add mental health courts and drug courts.
The bill would also build on an existing law that prevents people who are convicted of domestic abuse from owning a gun. The text includes language that expands the definition to include dating partners, rather than only spouses and former spouses.
At the same time, the legislation includes a section that allows people who are restricted from buying or owning a gun to have their gun rights restored if their record remains clean for 5 years.
The bipartisan team also agreed to include more money for telemedicine programs to allow expanded access to mental health across the U.S., school safety programs, and community-based mental health programs, according to a three-page summary of the bill.
The agreement doesn’t include some of Biden’s priorities for comprehensive gun control legislation, NPR reported, such as a ban on assault rifles, a ban on high-capacity magazines, a higher minimum age for gun purchases, or universal background checks. Still, Democrats and gun safety advocates have celebrated the bipartisan bill as an important step.
“This bill will be too little for many. It’ll be too much for others. But it is not a box-checking exercise,” Murphy said. “This bill is not window dressing. This bill is going to save lives.”
NPR: “Senators reach final bipartisan agreement on a gun safety bill.”
Office of U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy: “Discussion draft of Bipartisan Safer Communities Act,” “Bipartisan Group of Senators Announce Bipartisan Safer Communities Act,” “Bipartisan Safer Communities Act one-pager.”
Office of U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell: “McConnell Statement on Bipartisan Negotiations.”